Tag Archives: Spanish cooking

Toum! (an interpretation)

So this is a variation of a variation of a variation…but geeze ‘o man is it good. What, you may wonder, am I talking about. Garlic mayonnaise and it’s many variation. The south of France (and Italy and Spain) have Aioli (the French word for garlic is ail), in the Middle East there is the potent Toum (which simply translates as garlic), and in Greece there is Skordalia (not sure of the etymology of this one). And then there’s my most recent version I’ll call beaonnaise [sic]. But I’m jumping ahead. I love to eat a sandwich at lunch, and I also love the flavor of garlic. And in my continued effort to eat healthier (minus the eggs and low grade oil in most mayonnaise) I made this and it is really easy (and super delicious). I just recently found out that beans–and especially chickpeas–contain lecithin, which of course is the same emulsifying agent that is in egg yolks. And we all know that beans in general are really good for you, and so is olive oil, so I replaced the egg yolk with chic peas. Delicious. You can cut down on or increase the amount of garlic as you like, and with the aid of a blender this will take about 2 minutes to make. And because there are no raw egg yolks this will last a while in the fridge…but it likely will not because it is so delicious.


Makes about 1½ cups

1 (15 ounce can) chick peas, drained and rinsed

2-4 cloves garlic

¼ cup lemon juice

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup virgin olive oil

Combine all of the ingredients except the olive oil in a blender and puree. While the blender is running add the olive oil in a thin stream. Continue to blend for 30 seconds, or until the beaonnaise is light and fluffy.


Sofrito is both an ingredient, a seasoning, and a recipe all by itself. It is a simple method of simmering onion, peppers, garlic, and tomatoes in olive oil. But the flavor it imparts can be transformative to a dish. The key here is long slow cooking…it really brings out the flavors. But is often the case, I’m jumping ahead. I’ve often cooked this way but never gave it much thought. That is until this past year when I began a conscious diet to lower my cholesterol count. Luckily for me the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest there is, because it is in fact my favorite way to eat…I just need to cut out the chocolate chip cookies and french fries. So lately I have been doing a bit of research. I had known of sofrito for years but never really gave it much thought as being really good for you, but it is (click here, here, or here). Sofrito can be combined with other ingredients such as rice (it makes a rice pilaf taste great), it can be the base to a great pasta dish, topped over vegetables, or used as a base to braise fish. The simple procedure goes like this…line a pot or skillet with olive oil and heat it over medium heat. Add diced onions and peppers and simmer/saute them until they begin to caramelize. Add minced garlic and saute a minute longer, then add fresh or canned tomato. Simmer until the moisture of the tomatoes evaporates and the mixture sort of mashes together and begins to caramelize again. And that’s it. Add other herbs or spices if you like, or not. Anyhow, if you are interested in learning if you are in fact eating a Mediterranean diet, here’s a brief quiz at the New York Times.

Urban Simplicity.

Broth, Bouillon, Brodo (y Caldo)

Good soup is one of the prime ingredients of good living. For soup can do more to lift the spirits and stimulate the appetite than any other one dish.”
LouisP. De Gouy

A couple things…

Firstly, I have relatively little trouble eating (and ultimatley sustaining on) meatless or near-meatless meals. Actually, I prefer it. But I have to admit the one thing that would keep me from being a full-blown vegetarian is meat-based stock or broth…or what a vegan friend of mine refers to as “meat juice.” Rice cooked in water is bland, but cook it in a rich broth and it is a meal unto itself. If you have a rich broth and want a soup the flavor is already accomplished…whatever else you add is simply a bonus. I add chicken stock to most things I cook aglio e olio. The famed chef, Auguste Escoffier–whom which chef De Gouy worked under–has said that (and I’m paraphrasing) with a good stock anything can be accomplished. Stock/broth, to me, is a form of alchemy. And I love how the kitchen smells with a broth slowly simmering away (home kitchen or work kitchen). Today at work was slow and I made seven pots of the golden stuff (about 40 gallons) and the kitchen smelled amazing. Anyhow, for recipes and lore about soup and stock read this article I wrote for Artvoice a couple years ago. In the meantime…simmer. 

Arroz con Frijoles y Carnitas

I made this for dinner tonight…mmm. Easy and delicious. Really delicious (if I do say so myself); I am very full as I type these words. It’s a basic brown rice pilaf recipe (use any of these recipes) with the addition of black beans and carnitas (click here for a recipe and pics).

Urban Simplicity.

The Fire in the Center of the House and a Rooster’s Beak…two recipes and the brief stories behind them

For some reason I haven’t posted many recipes lately (not sure why…I still cook and eat everyday), so here’s a couple. One I made yesterday at home for dinner just for myself, and the other I made at work today for 180 people (but the recipe below is for just a few). Both of these are equally easy and delicious, and while I didn’t make them together they themselves compliment each other, but I’m jumping ahead as I often do.

The first recipe is for focaccia, or Italian flat-bread. The second recipe is for classic salsa pico de gallo. I made the focaccia as an extra accompaniment for the breadbaskets on the tables today for a large luncheon, and the salsa was made with ingredients that are still growing in my garden (look at how red the tomatoes are); and I ate it as an ingredient with tacos last night (and tonight) for dinner.

Etymologically, both of these recipes are interesting. Fococcia is said to be derived from the Latin word focus, which meant hearth (or fireplace) and also center, because the hearth was always located in the center of the house in those days. Hence, this flat-bread was originally baked in the coals of an open fireplace. Focaccia, of course, was the forerunner of the modern day pizza. Pico de Gallo, which translates literally as “rooster’s beak” (or beak of rooster) is so named because the diced vegetables are big enough (or small enough) that a rooster can pick them up with his beak. I love word origins and language in general. In a previous life I must have been multilingual.

Anyhow, here’s the recipes. The difference from the focaccia recipe below and the one pictured is that in the recipe I topped it with classic ingredients–rosemary, garlic, olive oil, and salt–but in the one pictured I slathered the dough with pesto. If you’d like additional images and info about focaccia being made, click here.

Makes 1 (12-inch) focaccia
1 1/4 cups water
1 package active yeast
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3 tablespoons virgin olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary, removed from the stem and minced
1 tablespoon cornmeal
Combine the water, 1 cup of flour, and the yeast in the bowl of an upright electric mixer. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to ferment for 1-4 hours. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour, along with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Fit the mixer with a dough hook and knead the dough for 10 minutes. Remove the dough hook and cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to ferment and rise for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size. Gently remove the dough from the mixing bowl onto a lightly floured work surface and press or roll it to 1/2 inch thickness. Dust a pizza pan or cookie sheet with the cornmeal and transfer the dough onto it. Using a fork, poke holes across the dough at 1 inch intervals. Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt across the dough, along with the minced garlic, and rosemary. Drizzle on the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and gently rub it and the garlic, salt, and rosemary into the dough. Cover the focaccia with plastic wrap and allow to ferment and rise for 45-60 minutes, meanwhile preheat an oven to 425F. Bake the focaccia for about 25 minutes, rotating it if necessary for even cooking. When golden brown remove it from the oven and the baking pan and cool it on a wire rack or kitchen towel. Allow the focaccia to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Salsa Pico de Gallo
Makes about 1 quart
4-5 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 jalapeno, minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients together, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1/2 hour. 

Three-Color Gazpacho Shooter

Tonight we’ll serve these gazpacho shooters as a component of a cocktail party menu…pureed gazpacho made from perfectly ripe red and yellow tomatoes topped with yogurt and green onion puree. Easy to make, delicious, nutritious…and pleasing to look at. There’s a basic gazpacho recipe below (omit the breadcrumbs to puree it smooth) but if you’d like additional recipes or to read about cold soups and the stories behind them, read this article that I wrote for Artvoice a little while ago (the carrot vichyssoise recipe–included in the article–would be a delicious layer in the as well).

Makes about 5 cups
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 English cucumber, diced
2 slices bread, crusts removed, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 jalapeno peppers, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and pulse until desired consistency. Let stand 10 minutes; served chilled or at room temperature. Optional garnishes include but are not limited to: diced raw onion, hard cooked egg, parsley, and olives.

Gazpacho Blanco (receta y fotos)

All I really need to say in this post is that this soup is really simple to make and delicious and that you should make it. But I’ll say just a  few more things. I made this for a luncheon I served at work today. It is a cool and refreshing soup, but also one that is bursting with flavor and nutrition. And it is quite possibly closer to the original Gazpacho recipe than the tomato based one we have come to know. If you’re interested in what I mean by this read this article that I wrote for Artvoice last month; it also includes additional recipes for cold soups and a bit of the history behind them. What is not included in the recipe below is the bright red squiggles on top of the soup. It’s pureed roasted red peppers (with a bit of salt and garlic). If you want to see how to roast a pepper on your home stove read this previous post (which has step-by-step instructions and pics).

Gazpacho Blanco
Makes about 6 cups
1/2 cup sliced almonds
4 slices bread, crusts removed, diced
2 cups yogurt
2 cloves garlic
2 jalapeno chilies, seeds removed and minced
1 pound green seedless grapes (about 3 cups)
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeds removed, diced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Spread the almonds on a small baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes in a moderate oven. Transfer the toasted almonds with the remaining ingredients to a bowl. Mix well and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and process until smooth. Serve chilled or at room temperature


In the event that you’ve never had them, choricitos are–as their name suggests–small chorizo sausages. They are pictured raw above and cooked below…my mouth waters as I type these words. They are so easy to make–mix everything together and shape them–and really versatile. Make them spicy or not, they can be eaten as an appetizer or incorporated into any number of recipes (they are delicious cooked with rice).

(Little Chorizo Sausages)
Makes about 30 choricitos
1 pound ground pork butt
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Shape into small meatballs or patties and cook them in a skillet or oven.

Homemade Whole-Wheat Tortillas and Other Good Things

I didn’t intend on making homemade tortillas tonight but I did…and here’s a quick story why. Last night I made my son and I tacos for dinner (using store-bought tortillas). I filled them with homemade carnitas de pollo (click here for the recipe and pics), salsa pico de gallo (recipe below), lettuce, and cheese. They were delicious, to say the least. Anyhow, I knew I was going to be home alone tonight and that there were leftover pollo and salsa…all I needed was a few tortillas (we ate the last of them last night). I was going to the health club for a steam and swim and figured I’d pick up the tortillas on the way home. I was/am tight on cash and had just a few dollars with me; enough to purchase the tortillas. Lap swimming often makes me hungry, and all I was thinking about was these tacos when I came home (they were that delicious last night). So on my way home I stopped at a local grocer…no tortillas, he told me. Sorry, all out. Not even the white flour variety. So I went to another store, this time a chain store…the same issue. Huh? After unlocking my bike for the third time, I stood on it for a moment contemplating as to whether I should go to the supermarket (I really dislike large supermarkets). To make a long story short, as I stood there straddling my bike, I thought to myself a few things. One was that I had the few meager ingredients home to make tortillas; the second was that I knew they were easy to make because I’ve made them in the past; and three was that being a professional cook I could make these in just a few minutes. So that’s just what I did…and they were so good I wondered I was going to purchase them in the first place. Recipes are below.

Whole Wheat Tortillas
Makes 12 tortillas
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups warm water
Mix the flour, baking powder, and salttogether in a small bowl. Add the oil, and using your fingers, rubthe ingredients together until it resembles course cornmeal. Add thewater; stir to form a dough. Knead the dough by hand for a fewminutes, then allow it to rest for ten minutes. Cut the dough into 12pieces. Using a small rolling pin or wooden dowel, roll the tortillasout very thin on a lightly floured surface. Heat a large skillet andcook the tortillas one at a time on both sides until lightlyblistered and browned.
 (For a recipe for the Carnitas de Pollo pictured above, click here.)
SalsaPico de Gallo
Makesabout 2 cups
2ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
½medium onion, diced
2cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
2tablespoons olive oil
1tablespoon lime juice
½teaspoon sea salt
afew leaves cilantro
Mixall ingredients together. Use straight away or refrigerate for up to3 days.

Spiced Brown Rice with Shrimp and Broccoli

This is another example of how changing a few ingredients–but using the same basic method–can create an entirely new dish (click here). I seasoned this with somewhat Mexican or South West spices, but even this could be altered…changing the spices to curry or Mediterranean herbs would create an entirely new dish. Anyhow, this is how to make it.

Make a sort of sofrito by sauteing onion, green pepper, lots of garlic, and spices in olive oil  (I used crushed hot pepper, smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, and turmeric). Them mix in brown rice and coat it with the oil and spices. Add simmering chicken broth (3 cups broth for every cup of brown rice) and season it with kosher or sea salt. Cover the pot and simmer the rice for about 30 minutes. Then lay shrimp (or other protein, such as fish or chicken) on top of the rice, and broccoli florets on top of this (continued below).

Cover the pot again and cook the rice/shrimp for another 5 or 10 minutes. Then check the rice and shrimp to make sure that it is cooked. Remove the pot for the heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. This is easy to prepare and super delicious and nutritious. In the picture below you can see that I also loaded my plate with Sriracha hot sauce (mmm…). Click any photo for a large view.

Urban Simplicity.

Isaac’s Mexican Shrimp Recipe

My teenage son came to me and asked how to make a Mexican shrimp recipe the other day. I was a bit surprised…he was, after all, not simply asking what there is to eat (or why there’s “nothing” in the fridge) or what time dinner is ready. I’m joking, of course, I feel blessed to have him as my son and to be his father. But he did ask me how to make Mexican shrimp. The reason he asked this was he has to make a Spanish recipe for his high school Spanish class. He has to prepare it in front of the class so we kept it flavorful but simple; he also had to translate it into Spanish (thus, the bilingual recipe below). He did all the chopping and cooking; I just talked him through it. He has a great sense of humor…it stands out in step 8 of the instructions. Anyhow, I thought I’d post the recipe not only because I am proud of him, but also because it is simple to make and really delicious. We ate it over brown rice that I cooked in chicken broth with garlic. The recipe will serve 4 people.

Isaac’s Camarones Mexicano
1cebolla pequeña
1 pimiento verde pequeño
2 dientes de ajo
1cucharadita de chile en polvo
1 cucharadita de chile ancho enpolvo
1 cucharadita de pimentón
1 cucharadita de cominomolido
1 cucharadita de sal kosher
1 libra de camarones
1lata (14 onzas) de tomates cortados en cubitos
El jugo de 1limón
1 manojo de cilantro
1 small onion
1 small green pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ancho chilipowder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound shrimp
1 can (14 ounces) dicedtomatoes
The juice of 1 lime
1 bunch cilantro
1.Cortar las verduras
2. Poner el aceite en la sartén
3. Pongala cebolla, el pimiento verde y el ajo en la sartén
4. Póngalelas especias y la sal en el pan
5. Mezcla durante 2 minutos
6.Ponga los camarones y el tomate en la sartén y dejar cocinar por 5 a10 minutos
7. Agregue jugo de limón y el cilantro y disfruta!
8.Recuerde: Comer las verduras

1.Slice vegetables
2. Put oil in the pan
3. Put onion, greenpepper, and garlic in the pan
4. Put spices and salt in the pan
5.Mix for 2 minutes
6. Put shrimp and tomato in pan and let cook for5 to 10 minutes
7. Add lime juice and cilantro and enjoy!
8.Remember: Eat your vegetables

Urban Simplicity.

Spiced Brown Rice and Beans with Venison and Broccoli

I remember hearing the statement–and I’m paraphrasing, I’m sure–that if you teach a person to play a song they can play that song, but teach them to play the instrument and they can play many songs. The reason I mention this is that this is just another example of an endless number of dishes that can be made by using nearly the same recipe, or at least the same method of preparation. This brown rice dish is just a variation on a theme of any stove-top brown rice pilaf. Over the past few years I’ve slowly gravitated towards cooking and eating mostly whole-grain and whole-wheat foods…I figured I eat enough bread, pasta, and rice, that I might as well eat the healthier stuff. And it’s interesting in that along the way I’ve actually begun to like the whole grain varieties much more than their refined versions…whole grains, to me, have more character; more flavor and texture.

Anyhow, to make a recipe like this you merely saute some items, season them, add rice and stock, then let it cook…simple, but there are a few things to consider (especially when it comes to flavor and texture). The first is the liquid-to-rice ration. This varies from rice-to-rice, but generally speaking with white rice the ratio is 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of boiling liquid, whereas brown rice is 1 cup of rice to 2 1/2 (sometimes more) of boiling liquid. Cooking times vary as well. White rice takes 18-20 minutes to cook, whereas brown rice takes 40-50 minutes to cook. And when it comes to flavor, the liquid is makes the biggest impact…as the rice cooks it is not merely coated with the flavors of the seasonings and liquid, the grains actually absorb their flavors. Therefor, if rice is cooked in water it will have a very simple rice flavor. This, of course, is OK, and even suggested when the rice is being served as a side dish and paired with highly seasoned foods, but when it is the main course the rice should be more full flavored itself, and it’s for this reason the rice in this instance should be cooked in broth. The broth absorbs into the rice and the rice takes on the flavor of the broth (and other seasonings). While the recipe in this post contained venison and was seasoned with Near East spices, it could easily have been made with chicken and Spanish or Italian seasoning with just a few alterations…more variations on a theme. Here it is in pictures; the recipe follows.

 Spiced Brown Rice and Beans with Venison and Broccoli

Heat a heavy deep skillet with either vegetable oil or clarified butter, then add a pound or more of diced venison (or chicken, lamb, beef) and brown it lightly. Remove the meat to a plate and in the same hot pan add a diced onion and a couple cloves of minced garlic; cook for a couple minutes until the onion just begins to brown. A a teaspoon each of turmeric, curry, tandoori spice, chili powder, and kosher salt; stir for a minute over the heat to bring out their flavor. Add 1 cup of brown rice, stirring it to coat it in the oil and seasonings, then 2 1/2 cups of boiling broth. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the skillet with a tight fitting lid, and cook the rice untouched for 30 minutes. Then add 1 cup of cooked (or canned) and rinsed white beans and a head of broccoli that has been course chopped…don’t stir these in, just  allow them to rest on top of the simmering rice and steam. Cover the skillet again and cook for another 10 minutes. Check the consistency of the rice…if it is not done or too much liquid has evaporated, add another half-cup of broth and cook for another 5 minutes. If the the rice is cooked to your liking gently fold the broccoli and beans into the rice, remove the pan from the heat, cover it and allow to rest for five minutes prior to serving. Makes about 4 large servings.

Urban Simplicity.

Super Delicious (and simple to make) Pasta con Vendure

This is a dish that I served to our staff at work yesterday. I was trying to use up some vegetables because we are closed for the first week of January. It’s really just a more complex version of any of the aglio e olio dishes I’ve posted here before. But before I start the recipe I have to qualify some of the ingredients…most are out of season, which is unlike me when I cook at home. But this was at my place of employment where we are primarily a banquet house, meaning what I purchase and serve is dictated by what the customers request. Unfortunately, to many, everything is always in season (it’s always overflowing in the supermarket isn’t it?). OK, sorry for the brief rant, I’ll get back on topic about the actual recipe. Anyhow, and as aforementioned, this is basically a version of an oil and garlic style pasta dish…but with more stuff in it…mainly how it was seasoned.

Here’s the ingredients I used (but you can adapt this to any ingredients…especially more seasonal vegetables), they’re listed in the order of application…

Olive oil, onion, carrot, sweet red pepper, garlic, crushed hot peppers, fennel seed, saffron threads, smoked paprika, white wine, chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth if you want to keep it vegetarian), kosher salt, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, cooked whole-wheat penne rigate, grated Manchego cheese (proportions are up to you; the more vegetables the better…and I use lots of garlic and hot pepper).

This is how to make it…

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, carrot, and sweet pepper; cook it until it begins to brown. Add the garlic, crushed hot pepper, and fennel seed; cook a couple minutes longer, making a sort of sofrito. Then add a small amount of smoked paprika and a few saffron threads; cook just a minute longer to bring out their flavor. Add some white wine and allow it to evaporate for a few minutes as it cooks, then add an equal quantity of broth. Season the liquid with kosher salt, and while it is boiling add the tomatoes and asparagus. Stir and cook the vegetables for a couple minute, until some of the liquid evaporates and the vegetables are al dente. Stir in the pasta and allow most of the remainder of the liquid to absorb into it. Toss with the cheese just before serving.

Urban Simplicity.

A Quick and Simple, Yet Delicious and Nutritious, Way to Prepare Eggs

If you’ve been to this blog before you know that I am somewhat of a creature of habit when it comes to preparing my own food. I like food that is not only relatively quick to make, but also full flavored and nutritious (and interesting to make, too); this is a perfect example. It’s a cross between a Spanish tortilla de huevos and an Italian fritatta (but closer to the Spanish version, I think). But as fancy as it sounds in romance languages this really is nothing more than a baked omelet. And what makes this so healthy is that it is chock full of vegetables…just enough egg to hold it all together. The real beauty of this dish is that there are no rules when it comes to its ingredients…anything goes (literally); it’s a great way to use whatever you have on hand (my favorite way to cook). This is a variation on many versions of this recipe I’ve posted previously, but tonight I included–besides the eggs, of course–sweet potato, carrot, broccoli, cheddar, and a sort of sofrito made with onion, garlic, and hot pepper. Here’s how to do it. Preheat your oven to 400F/204C; do this first so that it heats while you prepare your ingredients. Cook the vegetables; I steamed the carrots and broccoli and sauteed the onion mixture (the sweet potato was cooked from a previous meal). Mix everything together with the eggs, including the cheese. Heat a skillet on the stove top with a little olive oil. When it’s hot add the vegetable-egg mixture, smooth it out with a spoon or spatula, and place the pan in the oven. By the time you pour a beverage and slice some bread it will be ready; if the oven was preheated it will cook in 5 or ten minutes. For more recipes like this, click here.

Urban Simplicity.